Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Both Broadway and Tony Awards Should Take a Bow

Joshua Henry as Haywood Patterson and the company of "The Scottsboro Boys." The controversial musical had a short Broadway run but will soon be going on tour. Photo by Paul Kolnik.


THE American Theatre Wing’s 65th Annual Tony Awards
was a sparkling and spectacular infomercial for Broadway, not that the Great White Way needs much publicity these days. Ticket sales for the 2010-11 season were more than $1 billion, and the theatre-going public chose from 42 new productions.

More important, however, than box office grosses, the quality of the product this past season was superb. So much so, that in some awards categories, the losers were at least as exciting as the winners. Of course, one should be prepared for some disappointments – it’s an awards show, after all. The ceremonies, however, were anything but disappointing.

Tony host Neil Patrick Harris was an impassioned and convincing pitchman. A high point of his act was the duet with Hugh Jackman, host of Tonys past. It was full of uproariously funny vaudevillian patter. Though the show was a hard sell of Broadway, it was blessed with a lot more showing than telling. Segments from all the nominated musicals demonstrated the magic of the stage in the best possible light.

Mark Rylance won a much deserved Tony for his role in "Jerusalem." Photo by Simon Annand.

Among the winners was “War Horse,” which trotted off with five Tonys, including one for Best Play. It was not the favorite of this reviewer, however. That honor goes to Stephen Adly Guirgis’ elegiac “The Motherf**’ker With The Hat.” (See review at http://www.bit.ly/jYPDhJ).

Every line in the text of the play whispers that it is a classic new American drama. It also would have been nice if Elizabeth Rodriguez and Yul Vazquez had left with Tonys for Best Performance By An Actress In A Featured Role In A Play and Best Performance By An Actor In A Featured Role In A Play, respectively.

No disappointment where Mark Rylance is concerned. It is thrilling that he took home a Tony – his second – for Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role In A Play for his work in Jez Butterworth’s astoundingly-written downmarket drama, “Jerusalem.” He portrays Johnny “Rooster” Byron with all his verve and sinew and was nothing short of brilliant. MR always gives his prodigious all, even in the egregious “La Bete” in which he starred earlier this season. (See review at http://www.bit.ly/kDf6xE).

Bobby Cannavale and Elizabeth Rodriguez in “The Motherf**ker With The Hat.” All three were overlooked when the Tonys were handed out. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Meanwhile, who thought “The Book of Mormon” would win big? Duh, everyone. (See review at http://www.bit.ly/jeTY9w). Out of 14 nominations, it got nine Tony wins, including Best Musical. Incidentally, bravo to Nikki M. James who captivatingly savored her win for Best Featured Actress In A Musical and refused to leave the stage until she finished her thank-yous.

Note to everyone, the little-seen and excellent “The Scottsboro Boys” received 12 nods despite its abbreviated run, and yes, no wins. (See review at http://www.bit.ly/lNqW29). On a happy note, Don Cheadle, who introduced the performance segment from musical, had welcome news for its champions: “The Scottsboro Boys” will soon be on tour!

The biggest winner of the night? Without a doubt, Broadway.

‘City Love Song’: Around Town and Now Around the World

Jack Finnegan has taken his "City Love Song" abroad. Photo by Nina Segal.

Jack Finnegan, an amiable young man, left his job and apartment to become a rover.

He chronicles his wanderings around the United States by rail in “City Love Song,” recently at the Americas Off Broadway Festival at the 59E59 Theaters (http://www.59e59.org). Like his ramblings, the sometimes poetic descriptions of the U.S. cities he visited, drift.

The New York show ended last month, but JF has taken his show on the international. After stops in stops in Rio de Janeiro and Casablanca, he opens in Berlin tomorrow through 21 June. Other stops include:

Istanbul, Turkey: 21-28 June
Cape Town, South Africa: 28 June – 5 July
New Delhi, India: 7 July – 11 July
Shanghai, China: 11 July – 18 July

Visit www.citylovesong.com to learn more about Jack Finnegan and follow his “City Love Song” project.

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